New book documents growing cooperation between UN and businesses

Shashi Tharoor

14 June 2002 – "Building Partnerships" - a new book which documents the growing cooperation between the UN and the business community in tackling a range of development challenges - was launched today by the United Nations and the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum.

The new publication "offers the most comprehensive review of collaborative arrangements between the entire UN system and the business community that we have undertaken so far," Shashi Tharoor, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, told a press briefing held in conjunction with the launch. "It is not only a source of rich information about particular projects and initiatives that are increasingly taking shape throughout the UN, it is also a handbook for practitioners explaining what can be done and how it can be done in cooperation to implement broader UN goals."

Mr. Tharoor said the book told the story of how the UN was learning to work with the private sector while developing innovative ways to make business part of the solution to the kinds of problems faced by the world - a priority of Kofi Annan's tenure at the Organization's helm. "I would go so far as to say that the Secretary-General has made this a central theme of his efforts to renew the Organization, and this book shows that a great deal is happening," the Under-Secretary-General said.

Georg Kell, Executive Head of the Global Compact, agreed. "Kofi Annan's leadership has been crucial; right from the beginning of his first term he has made very clear that opening up the Organization to non-State actors - business, labour, NGOs [non-governmental organizations], civil society at large - is essential if we are gain relevance in the twenty-first century."

Mr. Kell said managing the UN's new involvement with businesses had presented numerous challenges, not least safeguarding the world body's integrity and image. "We also had to learn how to distinguish between different forms of engagement… to distinguish between philanthropy on the one hand and strategic engagement around values - both of which require totally different approaches and both of which, we believe, should be separated by a firewall," he said.

The book's author, Jane Nelson of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum, pointed to the "growing focus on corporate citizenship, good corporate governance, and corporate responsibility." The book, she said, documented innovative approaches to tackling global problems. She cited the example of MTV, "which reaches millions of young people around the world, [and] has a big programme working with UNAIDS about getting messages out about HIV/AIDS from the young people themselves."

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